Ask Me Another
10:23 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Ian MacKaye: Un-Punk'd

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 4:08 pm

Throughout his career as a musician, Ian MacKaye has played, listened to and analyzed countless hours of music. But how will he fare in our version of "Name That Tune"? In this Ask Me Another Challenge, MacKaye teams up with Stephen Thompson, NPR Music Editor and co-host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, to identify punk songs performed acoustically by house musician Jonathan Coulton. The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." never sounded so calm.

Plus, Coulton finishes the game with a cover of "Skyway" by The Replacements.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Live from our nation's capital, it's NPR and WNYC's hour of trivia, puzzles, and word games: ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm your host Ophira Eisenberg and joining me is the creative force behind Minor Threat, Fugazi, and The Evens, Ian MacKaye. And joining him in the puzzle ring is NPR music editor and co-host of NPR's pop culture happy hour podcast, the rock critic of our dreams, Stephen Thompson.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Welcome back, Ian. Welcome, Stephen, to ASK ME ANOTHER. Now, this is not a random pairing, having the two of you up here. You go way back, as it turns out, through a connection through your mother, Ian?

IAN MACKAYE: Yeah. Well, Stephen used to work for The Onion. He was AV editor at The Onion which was, well, he's from Madison, Wisconsin, wasn't it?

STEPHEN THOMPSON: Yeah, Madison, Wisconsin.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Wahoo!

MACKAYE: Yeah. And so it was a very funny...

THOMPSON: Somebody here is either from Madison, Wisconsin or knows where it is.

MACKAYE: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Excitement all around.

MACKAYE: Yes. But anyway, he was an editor there and interviewed me. And I guess at some point you did the book. My interview appeared in the book. I asked for a copy for my mom and I guess she wrote you a letter, didn't she?

THOMPSON: She did. I got this letter out of the blue from Ginger MacKaye and which I'm like, oh, you know, that's a vaguely familiar name. And flip it over and it's this absolutely lovely thank you letter for this book. And so I just - every time The Onion put out a book I would send a copy to Ian's mom.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: Which is - it's weird. I actually don't particularly care for Ian.

(LAUGHTER)

MACKAYE: And I can say the same about you.

THOMPSON: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Now, I'm going to ask you this, Ian. What is punk? Does it still exist today?

MACKAYE: Since I think of punk as the free space, which means a place where new ideas can be presented without being dictated by profit motives, punk will never die. That's the thing about punk.

(APPLAUSE)

MACKAYE: So it may not be called punk but, you know, I think that in the history of music, actually, all cultures, all different forms of expression, whether you're talking about, you know, jazz, blues, rock n' roll, hip hop, folk, all these things, they're all punk in their own way in their beginnings. It's only when they become commercialized and co-opted that they lose that kind of decisive, like, wow, something is really occurring here.

So it may not be called punk but it will always exist. Punk won. That's what I can say.

(APPLAUSE)

MACKAYE: And in fact, I would even say this show in a way - like, there's a certain component to the show that really comes straight out of this idea of approaching presentation in a really alternative way that keeps parlaying over and over and over.

EISENBERG: Trust me, this show is the biggest risk NPR has ever taken.

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: All right. So I have to ask you: Are you both ready to take an ASK ME ANOTHER challenge?

THOMPSON: Sure.

MACKAYE: Yes.

EISENBERG: All right. Jonathan Coulton, I understand you have brushed up on your punk repertoire?

JONATHAN COULTON: I did. Yes. But honestly, as a singer, I'm much more of a sensitive Dan Fogelberg type. What's going to happen is you are going to have to identify the punk and punk influenced songs that I will be playing. But they may not sound the way you're used to hearing them. After each clue Ophira will ask for a follow-up trivia question that may or may not have anything to do with the song.

EISENBERG: Who knows what it will be?

COULTON: And you guys have agreed to play as a team. If you guys get enough right, then Marilyn Stark from Herndon, Virginia will win a special ASK ME ANOTHER prize. And Marilyn is a big fan of yours, Ian, and also coincidentally, the mother of one of our contestants, Anne Holsinger.

MACKAYE: If we foul this up, if we don't do this for her...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

MACKAYE: I'll double it.

(APPLAUSE)

MACKAYE: Two tote bags.

COULTON: All right.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: If you would, name the song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

COULTON: (singing) I am an empty Christ. I am an anarchist. Don't know what I want but I know how to get it. I want to destroy the...

THOMPSON: Do we jump in on this or what?

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: Kind of harsh on my mellow there, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

COULTON: (singing) Because I want to be anarchy.

THOMPSON: You know, I think you probably know this, Ian, but it's "Anarchy in the U.K."

COULTON: That is correct. Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

THOMPSON: Thank you, Ian, for letting me take the really easy one.

MACKAYE: Sure.

EISENBERG: Here's your follow-up trivia question. Speaking of the anti-Christ, you just might be the anti-Christ if you have a 666 birthmark on your skull like a creepy boy named Damien in what 1976...

THOMPSON: "The Omen."

EISENBERG: ...horror film. That is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

COULTON: (singing) How you get rude and reckless. Don't you be so crude and feckless. You've been drinking brew for breakfast. The title goes here.

(LAUGHTER)

MACKAYE: Is that a real song?

EISENBERG: Yeah.

MACKAYE: That seems like a Stephen one for me, so.

THOMPSON: Oh, come on. The thing is, I don't know anything or - and I am not good at anything. So I'm not entirely sure that I'm the best helper with this one. We might need to consult the audience.

COULTON: Anybody in the audience know the answer?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: "Rudy Can't Fail."

COULTON: "Rudy Can't Fail." That's right.

EISENBERG: Let's see how you do with your follow-up question.

MACKAYE: Oh, OK.

EISENBERG: Surprisingly, what Rudy did fail to win the 2008 Republican presidential primary...

(LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: ...in Florida and thus ended his presidential run the next day? Sore loser.

MACKAYE: Giuliani.

EISENBERG: Yes. You are correct.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: All right. We're looking for the song title here.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

COULTON: (singing) We've got nothing better to do but watch TV and have a couple of brews. All our friends are going to hang out here tonight. We're going to pass out on the couch, all right, tonight.

MACKAYE: Could you do the ending of that again? That was so nice.

(LAUGHTER)

MACKAYE: And just make your mouth go sideways again.

COULTON: (singing) Tonight.

MACKAYE: That's good. "TV Party."

COULTON: "TV Party" is right.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: That song is by Black Flagg. Black Flagg is also the name of an insecticide brand that's been around since 1833. One of their most famous products is what insect trap where bugs check in but they don't check out?

(LAUGHTER)

MACKAYE: I know.

THOMPSON: The roach motel?

MACKAYE: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Exactly.

(APPLAUSE)

MACKAYE: Apropos of that...

EISENBERG: Yeah.

MACKAYE: ...there was a band from Florida called Roach Motel.

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah?

MACKAYE: They were ladies, a punk band. Yeah. So it was a theme.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: Of dead bugs.

EISENBERG: We're covering all things that kill bugs.

COULTON: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

COULTON: (singing) Bite my lip and close my eyes, take me away to paradise. I'm so damn bored I'm going blind. It smells like spearmint. I've got no motivation. Where is my motivation? No time for the motivation? Smoking my inspiration.

THOMPSON: Well, it's a Green Day.

COULTON: Mm-hmm.

THOMPSON: Is that "Basket Case"? What's the...

COULTON: No, it's the other one.

THOMPSON: I am terrible with titles.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: I'm so bad with titles. And they don't say, like, basket case, oh, basket case. So it's too hard.

(LAUGHTER)

COULTON: This actually, I should've said at the beginning please name the band for this one.

THOMPSON: The band is Green Day.

COULTON: That's right!

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: The song is "Longview."

THOMPSON: Oh!

EISENBERG: Yes. Which was Green Day's first hit single. What does the title "Longview" refer to?

THOMPSON: I have no clue.

MACKAYE: I also have no clue.

EISENBERG: Anyone out there? Everyone's wrong. Longview, Washington where the song was first performed.

MACKAYE: Oh.

EISENBERG: In front of an audience.

THOMPSON: How do you know that?

EISENBERG: We have a script.

(APPLAUSE)

COULTON: All right. We're just looking for the band on this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

COULTON: (singing) Band in D.C. with a thousand more places to go. Going to swim the Atlantic because that's the only place I can go. You, you can't hurt me. Why? I'm banned, banned in D.C.

MACKAYE: Bad Brains.

COULTON: Bad Brains.

EISENBERG: Yeah.

COULTON: That's right.

EISENBERG: Here's your follow-up question. What five letter word refers to the use of animal brains and other organs as food? And it's a homonym for an adjective that might describe how brains taste.

THOMPSON: Sweet.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: Like sweetbreads.

EISENBERG: Oh. I know what you're talking about. Sweet brains.

THOMPSON: Sweetbread.

EISENBERG: Yes, exactly. Sweetbreads. Sweet - no. That is not the word. There's another word we were looking for, however that might be worth...

MACKAYE: I keep thinking spongeform.

EISENBERG: Possible.

MACKAYE: Give it to me.

EISENBERG: It's offal.

MACKAYE: Oh. O...

EISENBERG: O-F-F-A-L.

THOMPSON: L. Yeah.

EISENBERG: Awful. Which was also my nickname in high school.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

COULTON: (singing) Hey ho, let's go. Hey ho, let's go. Their forming in a straight line. Go through a tight wind. The kids are losing their minds.

MACKAYE: That's so engrained. I know the band, obviously. That would be - I would say it's (whispers) Blitzkrieg Bop.

COULTON: That's right. You got it.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: The Ramones got their name from what rock star who used to check into hotels using the pseudonym Paul Ramone?

MACKAYE: Paul McCartney.

EISENBERG: That is correct.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: That is our quiz. Congratulations.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Ian. Congratulations, Stephen.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

EISENBERG: Marilyn Stark is going to receive a special ASK ME ANOTHER prize and let me tell you what that is. It's a ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's cube. And we have one for you guys as well.

MACKAYE: Oh, great.

EISENBERG: Yes. One more round of applause for NPR's Stephen Thompson and Ian MacKaye.

(APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

COULTON: (singing) Would you take the sky away? High above the busy little one-way. My stupid gloves and hatted man, I lie awake wondering if I'll sleep. Wondering if we'll meet out on the street. Would you take the sky away? It don't move at all like a subway. It's got bums when it's cold like any other place. It's warm up inside. Sitting down and waiting for a ride. Beneath the skyway.

(APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Jonathan Coulton. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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